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Five reasons for universities to develop their partnerships with industry

  • 26 June 2019
  • By Joan Fennelly and Lucy Haire, Oracle UK Higher Education

A lot is (rightly) expected of universities. Most commentators agree that the UK’s universities punch above their weight in terms of rankings, reputation and return on investment.

Yet the pressure is on to maintain, explain and even improve this positioning. The UK’s current political instability and its ever-changing higher education regulatory framework set against fast-paced global change are adding to the pressure.

Technology is often cited as a key driver for much of the change. One of our most fast-moving new technologies, Artificial Intelligence, may even create a “Fourth Education Revolution” argues Professor Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, in his book by the same title, the first education revolution being the transfer of survival knowledge between our ancient ancestors, the second involving the development of writing in ~4000BC Mesopotamia and the third being spearheaded by the launch of the printing press and early industrialization.

Education and industry have long been inextricably linked. And this was one of the themes was explored at Hepi’s annual roundtable for its industry partners and higher education leaders on 17 June 2019. Taking those discussions as a springboard, here are five reasons for universities to further develop their partnerships with industry:

1. Industry can offer resources to universities

If implemented, the Augar recommendation that the annual student tuition fees be reduced from £9,250 to £7,500 could cost the sector more than ~£2 billion per year. Brexit and governmental instability also increase uncertainty about funding levels and mechanisms. Industry offers research funding, partnerships, placements, equipment, services and mentoring, all of which can be leveraged for university success in straitened times.

2. University towns & cities thrive and stimulate industry

Towns and cities with universities seem to fare better economically than neighbouring towns without – the UK’s Sheffield, for example, has two large universities and a thriving economy whereas neighbouring towns without universities are struggling. Causal links are complex but it seems indisputable that ideas, technology and human capital leak between universities and local industry, stimulating investment and growth.

3. Universities need to demonstrate local impact

The UK government’s 2018 Industrial Strategy called upon local anchor institutions, including universities, to support local people in wide-ranging ways. Collaborative leadership and partnerships between universities, industry and other organizations like local health trusts can provide innovative pathways for local growth. Mike Boxall from PA consulting has argued very eloquently that universities “must learn how to earn their living by sharing in the value they help create with others”.

4. Local industrial partnerships can support widening university participation

Encouraging and supporting under-represented groups to pursue a university education is a perennial challenge. Industry can play its part, working with universities to bring roles, careers and sectors in to focus and within reach of all.

5. Industrial partnerships help universities keep pace with technological change

Analysis shows that the university sector struggles to keep pace with technological change at an institutional level. While university researchers at individual and group-level are often at the forefront of technological innovation, their institutions often lag behind in terms of implementing the latest organizational and business technology for both students and staff. Industry has a part to play in supporting universities to plan, deliver and future-proof their technological infrastructure and services.

Henley, high-powered computing and hives

Technology company Oracle has long supported universities by providing free software, learning resources and courses through the Oracle Academy. It also recently announced a partnership with Henley Business School at Reading University to help prepare students for the future workplace, and it is extending deployment of its high-powered cloud computing in the sector to support The World Bee Project, monitoring hives around the world.

Oracle is holding a free event at Imperial College, London on 11th July 2019 where UK universities will present their transformational journeys with Oracle’s business software. Register here to secure your place.

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